Newspaper Article

December 2, 2023

"God's Mercy Gives You Another Chance"

One recent Sunday morning I had just begun to preach when I spied a tiny black spider on the podium, one of those whose main defense mechanism involves hopping around in order to avoid its enemies. I quickly decided my best course of action was to pause my sermon, give a brief explanation to the congregation, and get rid of that potential distraction. I didn’t kill it – not due to any affection I have for spiders, but mainly because I had nothing to whack it with other than my Bible. Additionally, I knew this species could be rather evasive, so neither did I want to take the time to be chasing it around. So I simply brushed it off the podium and resumed the message.

I thought no more about that incident until the next Sunday morning when I approached the pulpit prior to the worship service. What greeted me there? You guessed it. The spider was back. He had not taken the opportunity of my showing him mercy to scamper off elsewhere. No, he had returned to the same spot, seemingly determined to take up residence there. Therefore I made sure he didn’t survive our second encounter.

That spider did not take advantage of the second chance I had offered to it. How do we respond when God shows us mercy? As others have noted, He is a God not only of second chances but of third, fourth, and countless other chances. In a sense, it can be said that His mercy has no limit. Psalm 136 repeats over and over again at the end of every verse in what was likely meant to be sung as a responsive chorus, “For His mercy endures forever.”

One of the best scriptural descriptions of God is found in Exodus 34:6-7 and is repeated in some form several other times in the Bible. “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” God’s mercy is one of His greatest attributes, and one for which we should be so very grateful. If God gave us what we deserve, we would all be in big trouble. Instead, He offers us mercy, providing us with the opportunity to receive forgiveness for our sins. And unlike my attitude toward that spider, God does have affection for us. He shows us mercy out of His great love for us.

However, we must take advantage of the opportunity He graciously gives us. His merciful nature does not mean that He will automatically keep us from suffering the penalty of our sin or its consequences. He gives us the opportunity to avoid it, but He doesn’t force it upon us. If we stubbornly continue in our sin or refuse to receive His grace, He will eventually give us what we want. That description of God we noted earlier had another part to it – “by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:7). If we don’t accept God’s mercy, we will have to face His judgment, along with its negative consequences that can affect those around us. We have to remember that while it is true that God is loving and merciful, He is also holy and just.

God has shown mercy to each one of us. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to take the penalty for our sin. We can be forgiven. No matter what we have done, God gives us another chance. Don’t ignore it. Don’t keep going your own way. Take advantage of the wonderful mercy of God while you can.